After Bank of America announced last month that it would be joining SunTrust, Chase and Wells Fargo in charging a fee for debit card use, the Better Business Bureau put out a release warning consumers and business owners to keep a look out for more to come.
According to BBB, recent changes in banking laws capped the “swipe fee” that banks can charge retailers for debit transactions. The average fee was 44 cents per transaction, but the new law caps the fee at 21 cents. With banks estimating they will lose hundreds of millions of dollars a year in debit card transactions fees, they are looking to recoup that money from customers by modifying various checking account fees. According to Loganville resident Kathy Mackay, that is already happening. As a SunTrust Bank customer, Mackay posted on Patch that she been advised to expect more fees on top of the debit card fee, starting next month.
"Suntrust is also starting a new fee structure as of Nov. 10, 2011. Checking accounts will now carry monthly maintenance fees of $7/month (unless you keep a daily minimum balance of a certain amount or have direct deposit) plus a monthly fee for the bankcard use of $5/month,” Mackay said. “For an individual account that does not meet their requirements plus uses the bankcard every month, the account has gone from costing the individual $0 to now costing $12/month or $140 a year. Families with several checking accounts will be charged those fees per account.”
Mackay said with her and her husband each having a checking account, that would cost them $280 a year. It’s changes like this that the BBB is warning about.
“If you don’t understand a notice you receive or see a new fee on your account statement that you weren’t expecting, contact your financial institution and ask for an explanation,” said Fred T. Elsberry, Jr., president & CEO of the BBB Serving Metro Atlanta, Athens & Northeast Georgia.
Elsberry said account holders can to ask their bank if there are programs to waive the fee for accounts with a minimum balance. It also pays to shop around; some financial institutions may keep no-fee debit cards.
Mackay said she did speak to her bank, and was told to maybe consider using a SunTrust credit card to use instead of a bankcard to at least reduce that fee. She then tried shopping around.
“I checked with Gwinnett Federal Credit Union about their offerings. There is a one-time membership fee to join. For me, because I'm not a school employee, my cost to join is $40.00 - of that amount $25.00 is kept frozen in the savings account - and is considered a "share" in the credit union,” Mackay said. “Once you are a member you are then able to use their full range of banking products without any fees.”
Mackay said for her, that was the deciding factor.
“Yes, you read that right,” she posted on Patch. “No fees for checking accounts or bank cards. I'm closing my Suntrust accounts and headed to the credit union..."